From co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, the FX series Mayans M.C. is the next chapter in the Sons of Anarchy saga, now set in a post-Jax Teller world. Fresh out of prison and trying to carve out a new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with big dreams, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo) is trying to navigate what it means to be a Prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the California/Mexico border. While figuring out what the next step in his life can be, EZ is torn between his struggling but lawful father (Edward James Olmos), his brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas), who is a full patch member of the M.C., and his childhood sweetheart Emily (Sarah Bolger), who seems to have moved on without him.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Danny Pino (who plays Miguel Galindo, a family man who is also the son of the founder of the Galindo Cartel) talked about the appeal of Mayans M.C., his level of surprise when he learned how the season would play out, how these characters are all the hero of their own story, that family is Miguel Galindo’s Achilles’ heel, and the fun of getting to play the duality that’s in this character.
Collider: This character seems like one of those characters that’s an actor’s dream to play because there are so many layers there. Did you know there would be all of that to work with, when you signed on for this?
DANNY PINO: No, I didn’t know exactly who Miguel Galindo was going to be, when I first signed on, but I knew that Kurt Sutter, being the showrunner and creator of it, was gonna go deep and it was gonna be unexpected. That was exciting to me.
Since you’re done shooting the season, when you actually found out just how deep and unexpected things would get, how surprised were you by how things played out?
PINO: From a one to a ten, it’s a ten. I was very surprised. From episode to episode, the experience on the show, as an actor, isn’t one where you sit down with the writers, or with Kurt or Elgin [James], and they plot the whole season for you. They don’t tell you, “This is where we are in the beginning, and this is where we’re headed. It’s not like that, at all. You have very thoughtful conversations about who the character is, at the beginning of the season, and where the character comes from and what the foundation of the character is, and where they find themselves, at that particular time, and then it’s understood. The writing staff doesn’t share where the character is going, which is exciting, as an actor, because you can only be present, in that moment. From episode to episode, scene to scene, and line to line, you don’t know where it’s headed. In a way, as actors, we have the perspective of an audience member, from episode to episode. We’re waiting for that next script to drop, so we understand what is happening in this very dramatic, complicated, complex world. Kurt is just a master of pulling those strings. He’s a close-range magician, where he has you looking in one place, and you’re sure about what you’re about to see, and then he fools you because you don’t expect what eventually happens. That’s why I say, from one to ten, that it’s a ten.
Would you say that we’ll feel very differently about your character, by the end of the season, than we do when we first meet him, or will we keep going back and forth on that?
PINO: I tend to try not to predict how people are going to interpret my character. I leave that to them. But I think it’s true that, from episode to episode, your protagonist becomes your antagonist, and your antagonist might become your protagonist.
They’re actually all criminals, to varying degrees.
PINO: And they’re all the hero of their own story, in a way. I don’t know whether I would see any of the characters as the total antagonist or the total protagonist. We’re all steeped neck-deep in the gray area. I hope that makes it interesting for the audience, as their allegiances shift.
This is a character that seems like he knows, as far as his business goes, the decisions he has to make to keep his business successful. When you throw his family into that mix, does that become the wild card? Do they make him more unpredictable, in the decisions that he makes?
PINO: I think you have your finger on who Galindo is, business wise. He’s very studied. He’s academic. He’s strategic, in a way that maybe his father wasn’t. His father was raised on the streets, and he had to fight his way up. In comparison to his father, Miguel has lived a very privileged life, educated in the United States and having graduated from Cornell. I think you’re right, in that he’s very deliberate with what he does, on the business side of it.
It seems easier to separate emotion from business than it is to separate emotion from family.
PINO: Absolutely! His Achilles’ heel, in business, is that he’s dedicated to his family. I think he learned that from his father and mother, so he holds family very dear. He has a tendency to be more emotional, when it comes to family. In that way, he could be more unpredictable because sometimes emotion supersedes his strategies. For him, with business, it’s rarely personal, and with family, it’s always personal.
Since he has both of those sides inside of him, is it fun to get to play that duality?
PINO: That duality is the only reason to play the character. If he were 100% the antagonist and bad guy, and he was flat, in that way, it would be unbearable to play and watch. If he were the other way around, and just the good guy who had no flaws, it would be equally as painful to play and watch. What makes him interesting, what was attractive to me, and what makes me stay up at night and think about the character, is that duality. Given that he is so intelligent, but he has the ability to use violence as a tool, it’s the same way that a CEO would use their legal team to get what they want. He doesn’t have that luxury, but he has the Mayans.
Mayans M.C. airs on Tuesday nights on FX.